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Shutting Down the Mobile Phone and the Downfall of Nepalese Society, Economy and Politics

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On 1 February 2005, the Kingdom of Nepal cut off all public telecommunication links to the outside world. According to the king, the shutdown in communications was to enable security operations against the Maoist insurgents. Landline and Internet services were restored gradually over the following weeks. But the pre-paid mobile phone service, which was used by the majority of Nepalese, stayed off for the public for 88 days. The shutdown in communications provided the environment for a natural experiment to look at the impact of the mobile phone. Researchers conducted interviews in three regions of Nepal that are taken by the Nepalese as representative of the country. Among those interviewed were politicians, including the then-prime minister, business owners, journalists, as well as military and police officers. The study found that the shutdown in mobile communications had limited success in helping security operations. The insurgents did not trust the mobile phone network and had developed their own parallel communication network. The larger impact was negative: it hurt the economy and alienated large swathes of the public, perhaps even contributing to the downfall of the king. The study suggests that the mobile phone is a social device and that if there is to be any shutdown of the mobile phone service, it should be done only briefly and for very clear security reasons.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2012

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